As John Harbaugh prepares for his last stand as the Ravens head coach, he now has to face the Bengals without his most important player. Baltimore’s quarterback since the beginning of the Harbaugh era in 2008, Joe Flacco will likely sit out on Sunday, as both he and Harbaugh stare down the barrel of a gun, ready to kill their futures in Baltimore. John Harbaugh has the opportunity to defend his job, but Joe Flacco does not have that same opportunity. Instead, Flacco must watch as the hopes of this season, and many to come, are put on the shoulders of a different quarterback.
The Ravens have not definitively ruled Joe Flacco out for Sunday. However, his doubtful designation, paired with the fact that he missed practice all week, is not encouraging. Flacco has not touched a football field in nearly two weeks. His last football performance came against the Steelers on November 4, when he suffered the hip injury that may prove fatal to his career in Baltimore. There was a glimmer of hope yesterday, as Flacco was reportedly off crutches, and walking without hesitation. But now, this glimmer of hope has been put out, as Flacco will likely be forced to watch another quarterback take the helm.
A former Heisman Trophy winner will sub in for Flacco on Sunday. Which former Heisman Trophy winner is the question. The Ravens have two on the roster, rookie Lamar Jackson, and veteran Robert Griffin III. Lamar Jackson is the favorite to start, as the fans are itching to see him play. But Baltimore may decide to roll with Griffin, however. Griffin is a veteran quarterback that showed his poise in the preseason. The Ravens may see Griffin as giving the team the best chance to win in the most pivotal game of the year, and in franchise history. At this time, it is still unknown who will play quarterback on Sunday, but Lamar Jackson seems to be the most likely.
Joe Flacco is now in a lose-lose situation. If the Ravens win with Lamar Jackson at the helm, there will be significant pressure to keep Jackson as the starting quarterback, regardless of Flacco’s status. If the Ravens lose, the season is all but over, and Baltimore may as well give Jackson the rest of the year as the starter to audition for the role next year. Flacco would have been the obvious starter if he was healthy, but his injury complicates the matter. Flacco’s best shot to come back after injury is to have Robert Griffin III play, and do well enough to win. Baltimore would then turn to Flacco to lead the team down the stretch.
If one thing is for sure, Baltimore will not tip their hand. Head coach John Harbaugh has relished in this opportunity to keep the Bengals guessing, and continually refuses to give concrete answers. Harbaugh not only has dodged questions on which quarterback will start over Flacco, but he continues to promote the idea that Flacco can play on Sunday. Harbaugh has stated that Flacco does not need to practice to play and that if he is healthy, he will play. Team doctors not ruling Flacco out for Sunday yet only bolsters this tactic. Depending on what happens on Sunday, Joe Flacco’s career could take a drastic turn.